Muscle strain, muscle pull, or muscle tear is the detachment of muscle from its tendons, which is a connective tissue that helps attach the muscle to the bone. Many also experience muscle damage, which causes the muscle fibers to completely tear off from the tendons while also breaking blood vessels. Muscle damage can also cause localized bleeding, accompanied bypain, irritation due to blood vessel breakage, swelling, and bruising at the site.
Grades of muscle strain:
Muscle strains are divided into 3 grades to diagnose and treat them easily. This depends on the severity of the muscle strain you might have suffered from.
- Grade 1: A mild form of strained muscles where few fibers are damaged or extended beyond their capacity due to undue pressure. You will experience discomfort and tenderness around the affected area but you will not lose strength or dexterity.
- Grade 2: A moderate form of muscle strain with multiple injured fibers and accompanied by intense muscle pain and severe tenderness. You can feel a visible loss of strength. There might be a bruise in the affected region.
- Grade 3: A severe injury followed by the complete impairment of muscle function. The muscle fibers snip off completely from the tendons or tears away from each other in two different fragments. It is accompanied with extreme pain, tenderness, swelling, and bruising, and you may feel a noticeable gap under your skin where the muscle is injured.
Phases of muscle healing:
There are 3 main phases for the healing of muscle fibers, through which a strained muscle passes to regenerate to its maximum potential again. The following are the 3 main phases:
- Destructive Phase/ Inflammation Phase: It is the first stage of muscle healing, which is characterized by muscle fiber breakdown and tissue damaged, followed by formation of blood clot and a substantial inflammatory response.
- Regeneration Phase: It starts within 4-5 days of the muscle injury, with a peak time in 2 weeks, and diminishes within 4-5 weeks. This phase is characterized by dissolution of damaged tissue, which is followed by the activation of the cells that are responsible for the regeneration of the new muscle fibers.
- Remodeling Phase: This is the final stage of muscle healing, which shows the maturation of the new cells with restoration of the muscle function capacity. This is accompanied by the development of the scar tissues.
Treatment for the strained muscle:
Grade 1 and grade 2 muscle strains can be treated at home. The RICE technique is one of the most common techniques that can be used at home for muscle strains.
- Rest: You should provide rest to the affected muscle and avoid activity that might put undue strain on the damaged muscle and worsen the condition.
- Ice: You will be experiencing inflammation at the affected area, but this can be handled by applying ice covered in cloth for 15- 20 minutes at the desired area. Ice tends to be the best anti inflammatory and a successful pain reliever.
- Compression: You can also use elastic bandages to wrap around the affected area, which will provide support to the damaged muscle as well as help in reducing the inflammation.
- Elevation: Elevating the damaged area will also help reduce the inflammation and water retention, and will allow the fluid to rotate back to the heart easily and get enough oxygen to support the injured area.
Muscle injuries can be treated faster if proper dietary recommendations and supplements are followed. The follow are recommendation to boost the healing process:
- Consuming protein rich foods will help you in reducing the risk of muscle loss. It will also aid you in regaining muscle mass once you resume your exercise routine.
- Consuming fiber rich fruits, vegetables, and whole wheat will help you maintain a healthy weight, which will reduce the fat mass as well as the pressure on the damaged muscle.
- Vitamin C rich foods or supplements should be taken in order to generate a higher amount of collagen, which is responsible for rebuilding of damaged muscle. It is also a great anti inflammatory, which will help in reduction of swelling.
- Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish will also help in the reduction of swelling.
- Zinc is required for wound healing, and can be found in meat, shellfish, fish, pulses, legumes, seeds, nuts and wholegrain. It also helps in tissue repair and regrowth.
- Creatinine is a main substance for muscles, which can be found dominantly in meat, poultry and fish, or can be taken in the form of supplements. It will boost the recovery process and will also help to regain the muscle that is lost during the injury.
- Glucosamine is a natural substance which makes up the tendons and ligaments found between the joints. It can be taken in the form of supplements. It is known to reduce pain effectively.
Doctors can aid you by diagnosing which grade of strain you are suffering from and by customizing the required activity plan for you. They can also help diagnose if the muscle injury requires braces or any form of support.
In order to reduce the pain and inflammation you can consume NSAIDs (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) ibuprofen or naproxen. NSAIDs should not be consumed if you are suffering from kidney disease, gastrointestinal bleeding or are taking blood thinner. Instead, acetaminophen is best, which will help reduce pain but doesn’t aid in anti-inflammation.
As the popular saying goes, “Prevention is better than a cure.” Let us look at some of the preventions as well.
- Avoid stretching the injured muscle itself without help from a professional.
- Plan an exercise routine with your physical therapist.
- Stretch after the exercises.
- Warm up before performing rigorous exercise.